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More than $200,000 in abandoned Key card funds is sitting in a SEPTA zombie account

The account now holds $210,391 from registered and unregistered Key cards that have expired. SEPTA can’t touch that balance, but cardholders can reclaim their money.

When SEPTA Key cards expire, any fund balance must be transferred to a new card.
When SEPTA Key cards expire, any fund balance must be transferred to a new card.Read moreElizabeth Robertson / File Photograph

A SEPTA account holds hundreds of thousands of dollars in unclaimed money from expired Key cards, and the balance is likely to rise at the end of November when another batch of cards expires.

The account now holds almost $206,000 from registered and unregistered Key cards that have expired. SEPTA can’t touch that balance, agency spokesperson Andrew Busch said, but cardholders can reclaim their money.

“The money is all available, and it’s sitting in a separate account, and we’re continuing to give people credit if they come in,” Busch said. “We want them to continue to ride, and we want to keep that available for them.”

The balance on each card is relatively small — the average per card is $6 and change — and SEPTA recognizes that many people likely won’t go through the trouble to reclaim those amounts.

Which leaves SEPTA with a problem: what to do with a potentially ever-growing pot of unusable money.

SEPTA’s lawyers are in discussions with PennDot about whether the agency could at some point hand the account balance over to the state. A PennDot spokesperson said the state transportation department would not take possession of the account.

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The account exists because of the way SEPTA calculates revenue. Money deposited by cardholders in a Travel Wallet, a fare tool allowing riders to keep a balance on the card that can be tapped for single trips, isn’t counted as revenue until it’s used for a ride. So when a Key card expires, as 40,000 did in July, SEPTA considers any unspent Travel Wallet funds the cardholder’s property.

Well before the July expiration, SEPTA advised riders with registered cards to transfer their balance to a new card, but 12,970 did not. And 17,204 unregistered cards with an unspent balance also expired in July.

The owners of the 23,000 cards due to expire in November should already be receiving notifications — if their cards are registered. SEPTA cannot reach people who have not registered their cards.

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SEPTA also has a refund process that requires cardholders to call 855-567-3782.

It isn’t too late to reclaim money. People with registered cards can still transfer the funds to a new card in person at 1234 Market St. or by phone. Those with unregistered cards can take them to SEPTA’s headquarters to transfer the remaining amount to a new card. Some riders have done that, and the account’s balance has shrunk since July.

“This money doesn’t have to be moved in the immediate future," Busch said. "It’s not something we can put toward something else.”

Transferring a balance from an expiring card will get easier in 2020, though, SEPTA officials promised in an interview Thursday. By the time the next batch of cards expires in the spring, cardholders should be able to manage the transfer through the Key website,